A special two-week holiday shop in November, organized by Gift Rochester and supported by Rochester Downtown Alliance and Mayo Clinic, provided managers and supervisors with an online, local shopping experience to recognize their staff this holiday season.
Matthew D. Austin typically gathers his team in Occupational Safety for a holiday social, taking advantage of department hospitality funds provided by the institution. But the COVID-19 pandemic forced him to scrap those plans this year.
Many of Austin’s colleagues in Rochester found themselves in a similar situation. Their teams largely work remotely, and even if their teams don’t work remotely, in-person holiday gatherings are just not an option this year.
In turn, many downtown businesses have been hurting. Less foot traffic means fewer sales.
“Our normal walk-in volume has been down 75% to 80%,” says Pat Carroll, who owns Carroll’s Corn in the subway level of the Kahler Hotel Building in Rochester.
A local online pop-up shopping experience in Rochester gave leaders like Austin an option to recognize their staff this holiday season, and it gave a nice boost to Rochester businesses.
Pop-up online shop provides support
Thanks to a partnership between Mayo Clinic, Gift Rochester and the Rochester Downtown Alliance, Mayo Clinic managers and supervisors could shop for a variety of local gifts and products for their staff during a two-week period in November.
The virtual shop was launched with over 50 businesses in downtown Rochester to underscore Mayo Clinic’s commitment to sustaining its neighboring business community. As a result, Mayo staff purchased more than $257,000 in merchandise from local businesses.
“We are thrilled that this was such a popular option for our staff this year and even more thrilled to see these dollars go right back to the downtown businesses,” says Erin Sexton, director of Enterprise Community Engagement.
One such business owner is Natalie Victoria, who owns Victoria’s Ristorante & Wine Bar, where Austin purchased gift certificates for his team.
“We are truly humbled and grateful for Gift Rochester,” says Victoria. “It’s an inspiration for all downtown small businesses, putting a smile on all of us.”
The initiative also brought much-needed relief to Carroll’s popcorn shop.
“Mayo staff have always been good to us, but this was almost lifesaving,” Carroll says.
Sexton stresses that downtown businesses play a crucial role in Mayo’s mission.
“Our neighboring downtown businesses are partners in providing patients, visitors and our staff with a world-class experience. We need to support one another,” she says.
Gift Rochester conceived during first COVID-19 surge
Gift Rochester ― a brainchild of the Rochester branding agency White Space ― is an e-commerce platform designed to serve local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This idea started as a personal need to fill my son’s Easter basket back in April while supporting the local businesses during our stay-at-home order,” says founder Sarah Miller. “Seventy-two hours later, we launched our pilot program. While the model has evolved to support Mayo Clinic’s needs, the heart of this endeavor ― supporting our friends and neighbors ― has remained.”
For Austin, the idea couldn’t have come at a better time.
“Gift Rochester helped support our small businesses and also provided a way to recognize the tremendous amount of discretionary effort teams have put forth in 2020 to keep our patients and staff safe,” he says. “The variety of offerings was appealing, and the ease in which hospitality funds could be applied was seamless.”
While this edition of Gift Rochester was open to Mayo Clinic exclusively, Gift Rochester is working on an expanded version to help other local organizations fulfill their employee or client gift-giving needs.